General, Retirement

Do You Qualify for Social Security Spouse’s Benefits?

July 11, 2024 • By

Reading Time: 3 Minutes

Last Updated: July 15, 2024

couple discussing their benefit optionsSocial Security benefits are a crucial part of the retirement income for millions of Americans.

If you don’t have enough Social Security credits to get benefits on your own work record or your own benefit is small, you may be able to receive benefits as a spouse. Your spouse must be receiving benefits for you to get benefits on their work record. If your spouse does not receive retirement or disability, you’ll have to wait to apply on your spouse’s record.

In addition, to be eligible for spouse’s benefits, you must be one of the following:

  • 62 years of age or older.
  • Any age if you have a child who is younger than 16 in your care or has a disability and is entitled to benefits on your spouse’s record.

How the spouse’s benefit is determined

Your full spouse’s benefit could be up to one-half the amount your spouse is eligible to receive at their full retirement age. If you choose to receive your spouse’s benefits before you reach full retirement age, your payment will be permanently reduced.

Your spouse may have postponed or plan to postpone their retirement to increase their monthly benefit amount by earning delayed retirement credits. However, your maximum spouse’s benefit remains 50% of their full retirement age benefit, not their higher amount including delayed retirement credits. (Your benefit as a surviving spouse would be based on the higher amount.)

If you wait until you reach full retirement age to receive benefits, you’ll receive your full spouse’s benefit amount. You may also get your full spouse’s benefit if you are under full retirement age, but care for a child and one of the following applies:

  • The child is younger than age 16.
  • The child has a disability and is entitled to benefits on your spouse’s record.

Payments to family members do not decrease your spouse’s retirement or disability benefit.

If you get retirement and spouse’s benefits

If you’re eligible for retirement and spouse’s benefits, you must apply for both, and you’ll receive a combined benefit equaling the higher spouse’s amount.

This requirement is called “deemed filing” because when you apply for one benefit you are “deemed” to have applied for the other benefit.

If you receive retirement on your own record, we will pay that amount first. If your benefits as a spouse are higher than your own benefit, you will get a combination of benefits that equals the higher spouse’s benefit.

Consider this example: Sandy is eligible for a monthly retirement benefit of $1,000 and a spouse’s benefit of $1,250. If she waits for Social Security until her full retirement age, she will receive her own $1,000 retirement benefit. We will add $250 from her spouse’s benefit, for a total of $1,250 a month. Sandy only gets an additional spouse’s benefit because her own benefit is less than half her spouse’s full retirement age benefit.

person in yellow shirt reviewing information on a laptop while sitting on a couch

How to apply online

Want to apply for your retirement or your spouse’s benefit or both? Are you at least 61 years and 9 months old? If you answered yes, visit our website to get started today. If you and your spouse both have a personal my Social Security account, you can view an estimate of the benefits you could receive based on your spouse’s record.

Divorced spouses can get benefits, too

Are you divorced from a marriage that lasted at least 10 years? You may be able to get benefits on your former spouse’s record. Our rules for divorced spouse’s benefits are slightly different. You can find out more by visiting our Family benefits page.

For more information about spouse’s benefits, please read our Retirement Benefits publication.

Please share this with your friends and family who may need it – and on social media.

 

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About the Author

Dawn Bystry, Associate Commissioner, Office of Strategic and Digital Communications

Deputy Associate Commissioner, Office of Strategic and Digital Communications

Comments

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  1. Jeff L.

    I was approved for my retirement July 2, and then immediately suspended because I work. I have complied with the hour requirement, even submitting 2 SSA Forms stating that I am in compliance as set out in Publication No. 05-10137 on page 13. How can I be in compliance by working less than 45 hours and still be suspended? Because I live overseas, I have to communicate with the office in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, which is a nightmare because they are always on the phone and spend hours calling over and over when their system auto-disconnects after several minutes, and they do not provide answers to my questions in emails that they send me. Why am I being punished for following the rules?

    Reply
  2. Sandra R.

    If I am getting a spousal benefit on my spouses record before my full retirement age and my spouse passes,does my benefit automatically switch to the survivor benefit even though I am not at FRA or does my spousal benefit stop and I wait till FRA to get the full survivor benefit? Also will my taking the spousal benefit before my FRA decrease my survivor benefit ?

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  3. robert e.

    both my wife &myself were orginaly on s.s. disability. we both have reached full retirement age/can my spouse still get 50% of my benifit’

    Reply

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